[IndieGoGo] Monsterhearts, a story game about the messy lives of teenage monsters.

edited January 2012 in Directed Promotion

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At long last! I am super excited to be announcing that Monsterhearts is at the editor, and an IndieGoGo campaign for the game is live!

Monsterhearts is a story game about the messy lives of teenage monsters.

It's based on the Apocalypse World engine, and it tells teen monster drama stories in the vein of Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, and Jennifer's Body. It works great for one-shots and short (3-6 session) campaigns.

The IndieGoGo campaign is a pre-ordering campaign. You can purchase the PDF, the book, other goodies (postcards, posters, game resources), and the chance to creative direct some additional design work (con scenarios, a new playbook).



If you've played Monsterhearts before, give a shout-out and tell us about your session and how it went!

If you've got questions, feel free to ask them here or on the IndieGoGo campaign site.

If you want me to tell you why cheesy teen monster dramas make for amazing story gaming material, ask!

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Comments

  • edited January 2012
    Nice!
    [edit] I bet everyone is trying to watch the video at the same time :-)
    [edit edit] Credits for the video?
  • Congrats man, this looks cool.
  • I played the game with awesome people and loved every second of it. I'm rather certain I wrote about it, but I can't find it now.

    So yeah: wooh! :)
  • I ran this at a con a couple of days ago, having never played or run it before, and having not even read the book prior to sitting down to play (I do have a pretty good understanding of Apocalypse World though). The game was very fun (though maybe in this instance didn't live up to its full potential due to the circumstances).

    I think that's a testament to how well the game is able to collapse down to the core AW principles and systems without losing the essence of what makes it fun and interesting. It also shows that the game is pretty well explained and straightforward to run.

    My favourite bit (as MC) was playing Hound, the fairy prince Titania sent to "help" the Fey kidnap a mortal. He was delighted with the opportunity to come out and play.
  • Posted By: mease19[edit edit] Credits for the video?
    Oh, dang! I knew I was missing something. I'll post an update containing the video credits, both the song used and the voice talents featured in the end of the video.
  • edited January 2012
    ...
  • edited January 2012
    Wooooo Monsterhearts!

    Been eagerly awaiting this game and have so backed it. Had to splurge a bit for the Beloved, the mix tape, zine and folder were too much temptation.

    - Colin
  • Don't add credits - it's more fun for me to guess who is who. *laugh*
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: McdaldnoIf you've played Monsterhearts before, give a shout-out and tell us about your session and how it went!
    I love Monsterhearts. Monsterhearts is to World of Darkness as Dungeon World is to D&D.

    It's totally unsafe.

    In the games I've played and run of Monsterhearts, innocents and not-so-innocents were seduced, names were called, hearts were broken, bullies were killed and returned from the dead (with demonic baggage), a ghost took a day trip to the earth's mantle so he could melt an amulet forged by Hephaestos, a church was blown up, demons were slain, policemen were addicted to experimental drugs, and the witch's mother was in every room of the witch's memory house!

    Here's some AP links:

    http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=14420&page=1#Comment_328090

    http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15574&page=1#Comment_353695

    http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15438&page=1#Comment_351364

    And I was supposed to play again tonight but everybody's sick. Bummer.
  • Awesome; glad to contribute. I really must play this game.
  • Posted By: jdfristrom

    I love Monsterhearts. Monsterhearts is to World of Darkness as Dungeon World is to D&D.

    We're slowly replacing everyone's game-infancy with AW.

    Who wants to do RIFTS World? *shudder*
  • Posted By: skinnyghostWe're slowly replacing everyone's game-infancy with AW.

    Who wants to do RIFTS World? *shudder*
    I think you can do that with vanilla AW, and the RIFTS gear list.

    On topic: Yay! Monsterhearts! It got played three times at Wellington's Kapcon games on demand last weekend. It sounds like all three games were great! I didn't get to play because I was running other stuff, though.
  • I bought in to this game right away because if there is a game designer who I believe understands what it is like to be a tortured youth, it is Joe.
  • AW is already Rifts, Adam.

    Monsterhearts is a great game! The last time I played, the strings mechanic was still a little confusing, but the core and peripheral moves are super great. I played The Ghoul and I decided I didn't want to be a flesh-eating zombie type, so I decided I was Carrie instead: murdered high school girl coming back to haunt the prep school and (eventually) kill everyone. I had sex with a teenage sorcerer in a gym storage closet or something, while giving him hickey-style bruises with my field hockey stick. It was kinky and wicked and emotionally confusing and very much like what being young is like. The only other game that consistently does that for me is Bliss Stage, which is one of my favorite games of all time. Monsterhearts is in good company!

    I'm not such a Buffy/Twilight fan but I really dig Being Human (American or British version) and Monsterhearts nails what those stories are about. Looking forward to playing more!
  • Posted By: skinnyghostI bought in to this game right away because if there is a game designer who I believe understands what it is like to be a tortured youth, it is Joe.
    Yeah. I'm pretty much an expert on tortured youth, for three reasons:

    1.) I was one.
    2.) I have several teenage siblings.
    3.) I watched over 12,000 hours of teen monster dramas in the past 1.5 years. (Buffy S1-7, True Blood S1-3, Vampire Diaries S1-2, Roswell S1, Being Human 1/2 of S1, Ginger Snaps, Jennifer's Body, American Werewolf in London, others)

    Don't ask me why 3 was a good idea. But I now live and breathe teen monster drama.


    While we're on the topic, are there any series or movies that I should be adding to that list?
  • P.S. Has anybody said how cool the "MH" logo is? It's super awesome and very metal.
  • edited January 2012
    Thanks, JWalt!

    In case anyone doesn't know what logo he's talking about:
    image

    I stole elements from the M and the H of the game's titling font, Yataghan. And then, you know, tried to make the bottom look like fangs.
  • Should have worked a heart in there somewhere.
  • Posted By: George CotronisShould have worked a heart in there somewhere.
    Hilariously, that was part of my original goal with the logo. If you squint, you'll notice that it's vaguely heart-shaped. I tried to make it moreso, but it began to look forced and lose what was cool about it. You can't win 'em all.
  • edited January 2012
    It's vaguely in the shape of a heart, yeah? That's part of what I like about it.

    EDIT: Cross-posted with Joe.
  • Hmm, DriveThruRPG won't let me (or anyone) cash out royalties just now due to paypal issues. Once that's fixed, I'll grab my share of MH. :)

    Meanwhile, you're already over 1/3 funded.
  • Just open it up a bit and bring the fangs together, clear heart!
  • Posted By: McdaldnoBeing Human 1/2 of S1
    You only saw the first half of the first season? I could have sworn it was Monterhearts' core. "Make monsters seem human; make humans seem monstrous." Plus the ghost's disappearing thing. Plus the vampire is totally Apocalypse World, everything he does it seems like he rolled a 7-9 or a miss.
  • I love the shit out of monster hearts. For me, this is the most exciting game to come out since apocalypse world.
  • edited January 2012
    I was one of the lucky people to play in Steve's Monsterhearts game at Kapcon this weekend. It was a fantastic game- everyone had a great time.

    I played Abrielle the Witch and had awesome fun- we started with the Fae, Hollow, Mortal, Ghost and my slayerette partner, the Chosen. It played out like, I don't know, an angst-ridden episode of early-season Buffy crossed with Ginger Snaps and The Craft (which you should totally add to your viewing list, Joe). Except the Werewolves were the monsters the Chosen was slaying with Abbie, at least till I failed my Keep it together and Running Away rolls- a cue for later drama- "How could you! You just ran off and left me in the woods!"

    Ah, the Witch. A total String Queen, much fun Hexing and Spurning. By the end of the game, the gleeful Fae was the object of obsesion for both the Ghost and the Mortal, the Hollow was beaten to (un)death by the local Sheriff (exulting "Yes! Yes! Release me from this shell!!"), the school Principal was ensorcelled to develop a creepy obsession with schoolgirls for which the Hollow, cursed by Abbie in the woods the previous night to see Damsels in Distress everywhere, had beaten him to death. The devout home room teacher had left town in shame after her affair was revealed in Church. Ah, Darkest selves. That'll teach them to try to repress my religious freedom!

    Steve did a really good job of kicking up the unintended side-effects of Abbies' careless hexing once her Darkest Self came out, Terrified and alone in the dark woods surrounded by the howling of werewolves... Total count attributable to Darkest Hexes- one inside-out Werewolf, one dead Principal, one dead (?) Hollow, two or more ruined lives, and one magically enslaved coven member. No comeuppance whatsoever waiting for Abbie in episode two, I'm sure...

    So, I'm stoked that this is coming out.
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: Mcdaldno


    3.) I watched over 12,000 hours of teen monster dramas in the past 1.5 years. (Buffy S1-7, True Blood S1-3, Vampire Diaries S1-2, Roswell S1, Being Human 1/2 of S1, Ginger Snaps, Jennifer's Body, American Werewolf in London, others)

    Don't ask me why 3 was a good idea. But I now live and breathe teen monster drama.


    While we're on the topic, are there any series or movies that I should be adding to that list?
    The Shaggy Dog

    Don’t be ridiculous — my son isn’t any werewolf! He’s just a big, baggy, stupid-looking, shaggy dog!
  • Ian! You totally beat me to the punch! Here's some other stuff that happened during that session, which basically covered the first 15 minutes of the school day:

    ... the Chosen discovers she's being framed by the werewolf pack leader for the murders of all the bodies killed by silver weapons over the last four weeks, was interrogated by the Sheriff, nearly kidnapped by werewolf goons, and then discovered her best friend Abrielle the Witch had gone dark side.

    The Ghost triggered her Darkest Self when she saw the circumstances of her horrible death-by-javelin playing out again in the classroom after a horrible prank went wrong. The combination of her misplaced love and subsequent poltergeist attacks caused an A-student to attempt suicide.

    The Fae navigated his way into a sweetly dependent fling with the Ghost and through a drunken-misunderstanding of a relationship with the Mortal. He managed to have both girls chase after him (both believing he loved only them), have them both simultaneously realise he's two-timing them, and still got away with all his Strings on them intact, and the Ghost still in love with him.
  • Hey Steve, total hats off to you (and Joe) for putting together a great game session. Off-topic, Games on Demand is so much my favourite part of Kapcon, it's down to the fantastic GMs who knock it out of the park at short notice.
    I know one of the players has just contributed to the fundraiser and I'll be doing so myself.
  • What hath bugsex wroth?
  • I'm so happy that I'll be able to dust off the old WW material.

    Here's hoping you get enough money to reach some of those thresholds.
  • Buying this as soon as I get my next paycheck.
  • Posted By:McdaldnoWhile we're on the topic, are there any series or movies that I should be adding to that list?
    Have a look for the movies "Cemetery Man" or its recent remake "Dylan Dog". Both of which are based on an Italian comic series that has been running or years.

    I borrowed it from the DVD store because I needed the fourth movie to get a bulk discount, but it turned out to be one of the more inspiring movies of the bunch from a gaming perspective. The general idea is a mortal private investigator who brokers the peace between assorted supernatural groups who would otherwise be at each other's throats.

    Maybe the TV series "Lost Girl" as well.
  • edited January 2012
    Joe: Another movie recommendation: The Covenant is essentially The Craft, but with hot teenage prep school boy warlocks who are all on the swim team. The special effects are straight out of Volcano High School and it has a kinda Korean action-horror vibe, despite having, like, that guy from Friday Night Lights in it. It's not a high quality film, necessary, but super fun.
  • Go Joe!

    This is a Good Thing!
  • Also:

    Your pitch/flavor text for the Hollow... so sweet. Instant hook there!
  • This game is awesome. I played in Alan Hodges' demo at the Oakland Minicon back in the fall, and we had a fucking blast. I don't know when the hell we're going to play it, but I'm sure it's soon.
  • For further viewing recommendations, and I'm not sure if they can even be found in the US on DVD anymore (though I'm sure through the spurious logic of the Interwebs it can be found): the Japanese comedy/horror series The Great Horror Family (which, to me, was friggin hilarious) and Bloodhound (a.k.a. Vampire Host), which was terrible but fun (therefore terribly fun) to watch as a spoof of the angsty supernatural teen genre.
  • This is one of my favorite games.

    I feel like the AW engine has been focused very well, which i to say, taking away things that don't serve teen horror drama and adding new rules and mechanics that do.

    Playing Apocalypse World is great for playing adults who are bad communicators in a world gone berserk. Monsterhearts doesn't feel like that - partially because the big scary things, the big "unknowns", are the characters themselves. Certainly there can be other weird stuff going on, but the characters cause a huge amount of damage just trying to get their basic emotional needs met, and that drives things forward at an excellent rate.

    The principles have been rewritten beautifully to push play in thematically correct directions. My personal fave: Accept people conditionally. This in service to the principle Make the PCs feel unaccepted. It's a fun (and potentially heart-wrenching, for all the right reasons) game to MC.

    I'm glad that this will soon be on offer at every con (because i know you SG folks!) & i'll be able to play it even oftener.
  • Here's one thing I love about Monsterhearts: it gives you an amazing engine for generating situations: twisted romantic and sexual entanglements; downward spirals of chaos and horror; desperate fights to recapture your humanity and incentives to throw it all away.
  • I hope this makes 5k the Selkie sounds amazing.
  • edited January 2012
    I can't believe this is the first time I've heard of monsterhearts!

    Or rather, I've heard the name but never investigated further.

    I recently ran a Teenage Vampire game (inspired by Vampire Diaries) and I might want to try it again but ditch my hacked rules (for now) and use this instead.
    Posted By: Steve HickeyHere's one thing I love about Monsterhearts: it gives you an amazing engine for generating situations: twisted romantic and sexual entanglements; downward spirals of chaos and horror; desperate fights to recapture your humanity and incentives to throw it all away.
    I would love to know more about this!

    How does it inspire / reward / encourage / help you create:

    - twisted romantic and sexual entanglements;
    - downward spirals of chaos and horror;
    - desperate fights to recapture your humanity;
    - and incentives to throw it all away.

    Is it encoded into the Moves? The GM prep? XP? Something else? How is it different than Apocalypse World for creating this type of drama?
  • edited January 2012
    John,

    I haven't played Monsterhearts yet, nor seen the "latest" version, but I had some input into the early stages. So I'll leave the real answers to other folks, but I can start the ball rolling:

    * Many of the moves encourage twisted entanglements between characters, just like in teen drama. For instance, you can try to get someone flustered by making sexual advances against them, or blowing them off.

    * The Strings mechanic encourages lop-sided and conditional relationships, because when you get close to someone you get sway over them (including the chance to interfere with their rolls, or help them, mechanically). There's always incentive to try to get more Strings on other people!

    * From what I saw of the early game, Joe has some very cool advice for GM prep, quite different from AW. So that's on the "soft" side of things (principles, agenda, and GM prep).

    I hope to hear more about this in this thread, though!


    Edited to add: I hope to hear more about the Darkest Self mechanic, though. It always sounded cool but problematic to me in what I remember of the rules. Has it evolved at all? (That's where the downward spirals and recovering your humanity would fit in, after all.)
  • edited January 2012
    I’m at work, so I only have time to quickly address one of your questions right now.

    OK, how does it help create twisted romantic and sexual entanglements?

    So, Monsterheart’s ‘history between characters’ section immediately creates some odd situations. In the first game I ran of it this weekend, the Queen (as part of character creation) had three members of her cult and decided she was sleeping with all three of them. The Hollow decided she was obsessed with the Queen. So I framed their first scene as the Hollow watching the Queen having sex.

    Secondly, the game has a move that activates when you Turn Someone On. Everyone wants to try this (or it naturally comes out as the result of normal teenage interactions). So the Queen found herself reluctantly turned on by the extremely manipulative Infernal … who (inspired by what had changed in the fiction) immediately decided to try and push things further.

    Third, and best of all, the moves that get triggered when characters have sex are amazing. We almost got to the point in our three hour session where the Queen and the Infernal had sex. If that’d happened, the Infernal would have gained a tag that made him a member of the Queen’s cult. Even better, the Infernal serves a Dark Power who has Strings over him, right? (Strings are a resource to force people to do what you want.) If the Infernal and the Queen had slept together, the Dark Power would have gained a String on the Queen (without her knowledge).

    Demonic pacting as an sexually transmitted disease. Brilliant.

    [edited: cross-posted with Paul]
  • Oh, I have a question:

    Could I play this in a more "grown up" setting? Like, more Vampire: the Masquerade, less High School Sweethearts?

    Or would that kind of ruin the slant of the game?

    In other words: would the game support play with "adults" just as well as with teenagers? Or is it better to stick to the teen horror genre pretty strictly?
  • Paul: There are some brilliant design touches, like omitting a "Read a Person or Read a Sitch" move that make the game particularly suited to the confusion of adolescence. There are also some growing up moves you take later in the campaign that are so, so choice.

    Despite that, since it is based on the AW rules, I think it would be easy to run a grown up V:TM style game with a few well placed nudges. I'm sure Joe has some opinions on this.
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: jenskot
    I would love to know more about this!

    How does it inspire / reward / encourage / help you create:

    - twisted romantic and sexual entanglements;
    - downward spirals of chaos and horror;
    - desperate fights to recapture your humanity;
    - and incentives to throw it all away.
    John,

    I'll take a stab at answering some of these as well, though Paul and Steve covered a lot of what I would have said.

    Twisted Romantic and Sexual Entanglements

    This starts in character creation. Each Skin has a "your backstory" that gets read aloud and establishes some Strings before the game even starts. For example, The Ghost's backstory is:
    Someone knows that you're dead, and how you died. They gain a String on you.
    You’ve been inside someone’s bedroom while they were sleeping. Take a String on them.
    Strings are emotional and psychological leverage that you have over people. You can spend them to do a list of things: boost your rolls against them, subtract from their rolls against you, offer the carrot (XP) for them to do what you want, threaten the stick (having to hold steady) if they do what you don't want, etc.

    In play, you earn more Strings by turning people on. Here's the move, along with its explanatory notes:
    When you turn someone on, roll with hot. On a 10 up, take a String against them. • On a 7-9, they choose one: give themselves to you, promise something they think you want, give you a String against them.

    When you use this move, you have the opportunity to step outside of your character role, and speak like an author would. Describe your character’s pouty lips, how the sweat rolls off their strong brow, and how they look silhouetted against the pale moon. Unlike other basic moves, this one can be triggered without a specific action being taken. If the player describes how arousing the scene is, without their PC actually doing anything other than standing around and looking sexy, the move can still be triggered.

    This move implies something about sexuality, and particularly teenage sexuality. We don’t get to decide what turns us on. When you make a move to turn someone on (with a character action or with scene description), the other player doesn’t get to exclaim, “Wait, my character is straight! There’s no way that’d turn them on.” That’s a decision that we as players can’t make for our characters. The dice are going to be the ultimate referees of what is and isn’t sexy for these characters. Their own sexuality will confuse them and surprise them; it’ll show up in situations they didn’t expect to find it in. Regardless of the results of the roll, however, each player still gets to decide how their character reacts. Being turned on by someone doesn’t imply or demand a reaction.
    Finally, lots of moves introduce super problematic and messy and interesting "romantic and sexual entanglement" prompts. People have sex moves, and Steve's comment described two of them. My current favourite sex move is written by Jackson Tegu, for The Selkie (which gets released if the campaign hits $5k): "When you have sex, it counts as being underwater." A number of The Selkie's moves are triggered when she's underwater, so her sex move is just weird and symbolic and creates lots of possible combos.

    In addition to the sex moves, lots of the Skin-moves that you can pick are focused on relationship dynamics and sexuality. Each Skin is both a kind of monster and a kind of lover/person. The Mortal gains Strings on people for forgiving their base nature ("Sympathy is My Weapon"). The Witch gains Strings on people by taking their things ("Sympathetic Tokens"), and maybe later using them to cast hexes with.

    And, finally, the text puts a lot of effort into teaching you how to bring teenage sexuality - in all its confusing and messy glory - to your gaming table. My favourite section in this regard is Queer Content. It's a couple hundred words that unpacks why queer content is important, how to introduce it, and what to do when you introduce it. It was written with the help of a queer trans friend of mine. I'm really proud of that section.

    Downward Spirals of Chaos and Horror

    There are a couple different answers, but the most important one is Darkest Selves. Each Skin has a Darkest Self, which can be triggered in a couple different ways: as a 7-9 option on certain moves, by the MC making a hard move, by hitting 4 harm and choosing to become your Darkest Self rather than dying.

    You're a monster, right, but you're also just a kid. There's a difference between being a monster and being a monster. When you become your Darkest Self, you become a true and despicable monster. The Werewolf burst into wolf form and strives to prove its dominance via bloodshed. The Fae begins a personal quest to "re-balance the scales of justice." The Mortal begins to burn bridges and expose the secrets of all of her friends. The Ghoul begins to devour its hunger and kill anything in the way of it.

    You can escape your Darkest Self pretty easily - there's an escape clause built into each one. In play, most people like to revel in their Darkest Self for a while. It's kind of like a permission: go crazy, do damage, get vengeance, embrace your inner monster, no-holds-barred.

    As an example, here's The Werewolf's Darkest Self:
    You transform into a terrifying wolf-creature. You crave power and dominance, and those are earned through bloodshed. If anyone attempts to stand in your way, they must be brought down and made to bleed. You escape your Darkest Self when you wound someone you really care about or the sun rises, whichever happens first.
  • Posted By: Paul T.
    Could I play this in a more "grown up" setting? Like, more Vampire: the Masquerade, less High School Sweethearts?
    Or would that kind of ruin the slant of the game?
    Paul, there's a section in the book that answers that very question! Why don't I just quote you it?
    After Graduation

    While the default assumption in Monsterhearts is that the PCs are teenagers who go to high school together, this doesn’t need to be the case. It’s fine to have the game focus on twenty-somethings who work together, or a sports team, or some similar departure from the high school milieu.

    If you choose to shift away from that default, it’s important to know what the high school setting and teenage protagonists were providing. Otherwise, you might lose some of the magic that keeps this game alive and interesting.

    The PCs need to be in the midst of a major transition. They need to feel alienated, both alienated from their own bodies and alienated from the world at large. They need to be put together in an environment of petty social politics.

    The game flourishes when PCs are passionate, dramatic, catty, loveable but unlikeable, confused, and divided against themselves. It doesn’t have to be teenagers who share a home room, but that’s the assumption that the game is written under.

    On page XX, there are instructions for creating a homeroom seating chart, and using it to create compelling drama. If your game doesn’t take place in a high school classroom, find an appropriate equivalent to the seating chart.
    So, in True Blood, everyone is in their twenties (or 120s, in the case of the vampires). But they totally act like teenagers, all of them, all the time. Monsterhearts works perfectly for playing True Blood.

    Playing Vampire: the Masquerade totally works, if you start with the premise that vampires are passionate and irresponsible beings always one step away from a nervous breakdown. Which, you know, has been accurate in the two Vampire games I've ever played in.
  • edited January 2012
    So it sounds like it transitions well to either 'you're all freshman at a [community] college' or "you're all associates at the local Chuck-e-cheese/K-mart/Applebees.'
  • Hey Joe, I haven't looked at the film list for a while, but does it have 'Ginger Snaps' on there? (for some b-grade werewolf cheesy angst)
  • There's another reason I love Monsterhearts! Way back when I joined the Forge in, like, 2002-2004, I was working on a teenage monsters game called Vespertine (or, sometimes, Vesperteen), originally intended to be a teenage sequel to Jason Blair's childhood horror game Little Fears. I banged my head against it for several years and several drafts, to no real avail. But now I can just write it up as a hack/campaign/"level 0" for Monsterhearts! Thanks for giving me some closure, Joe!
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